The Health Professions Council is a statutory body set up to regulate 13 health professions including dieticians, radiographers, paramedics and arts therapists. As they say, when you need one of these people,
You need to know that they meet professional standards. You also need to know that someone will take action if things go wrong.
Unfortunately, the farcical nature of such regulation has been highlighted today by the case of Derek Gale, working out of Loughton and in the City, who has been suspended from the register of Arts Therapists pending an investigation into his methods which the Council deem "inappropriate".
As there is no statutory regulation of psychotherapy or counselling with all their multifarious approaches, names and training schools, there’s nothing to stop Mr Gale continuing to practice as a couples therapist, psychotherapist, counsellor, life coach or whatever else he wants to call himself, with whatever unusual methods he prefers, as long as he doesn't describe himself as "Arts Therapist".
While some people may find being encouraged to smoke pot and have naked counselling sessions quite liberating, we can see that it might also be frightening and intimidating and likely to compound whatever issues the client went in with. However, as his lawyer states, quite rightly, Mr Gale may not be mainstream but that doesn’t make him criminal.
Choosing a therapist is a potential minefield, especially when you're feeling mixed up and vulnerable. There are many different organisations with registers of practitioners and professional qualifications that appear to provide some assurance to the layperson but, at the end of the day, if a practitioner is dodgy, pervy or even just really shit at their job they can continue to practice and charge ridiculous fees (Mr Gale’s attentions will cost you at least £65 an hour) and potentially make things worse. Even if a practitioner is caught breaking the law, the minute the rogue therapist is out of jail they’re free to set up in practice again, assuming bad press and the lynch mob don’t catch up with them.
There’s no easy solution to all this but at least the talking therapy professions are trying to get themselves in order and, we know that there are many qualified, professional and effective practitioners out there. Our advice is visit the BACP, UKCP and BCP for guidance before placing your mental health in the hands of any sort of therapist, even if they’ve got a nice motorbike.
Image from the Health Professions Council public information leaflet.